In the epic Mahabharata, numerous stories weave through the grand narrative, each holding potential for significant impacts had they unfolded differently. Among these tales, one lesser-known yet pivotal account revolves around the creation and fate of five arrows, each possessing the power to alter the course of the war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
The five arrows were no ordinary weapons; they were crafted with the life force and years of penance by Bhishma, a revered and valiant figure in the epic. These arrows bore an immense potential to bring about a swift end to the war by eliminating the Pandavas, the adversaries of the Kauravas.
Duryodhana, a leading figure among the Kauravas, grew increasingly discontented with Bhishma’s involvement in the conflict. He perceived Bhishma’s allegiance as wavering, feeling that Bhishma supported the Pandavas while outwardly siding with the Kauravas merely due to his pledge to protect Hastinapur.
Driven by frustration and doubt, Duryodhana confronted Bhishma, expressing his grievances. Bhishma, unable to refute these accusations, remained silent but felt compelled to respond in a gesture that would echo throughout the annals of history. He withdrew five arrows from his quiver, imbuing them with his life force through intense meditation. Bhishma then handed these arrows to Duryodhana, affirming that they held the power to vanquish the Pandavas effortlessly. He assured Duryodhana that these arrows, bearing his years of penance and vitality, would bring a swift end to the Pandavas and ensure victory for the Kauravas upon their deployment.
Elated by the prospect of wielding such a potent weapon, Duryodhana eagerly anticipated using these arrows in the impending battle. However, Bhishma requested Duryodhana to collect the arrows on the following day, seeking to create a delay. Suspicious of Bhishma’s intentions, Duryodhana feared that Bhishma might alter his decision or destroy the arrows out of righteousness. Refusing to return the arrows, Duryodhana insisted on keeping them and retired for the night, feeling assured of imminent triumph.
Unknown to Duryodhana, Lord Krishna, the astute strategist, was apprised of these five arrows through his spies. Swiftly devising a plan, Krishna sought the aid of Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, and entrusted him with a crucial mission. Arjuna, guided by Krishna’s counsel, stealthily approached Duryodhana.
Encountering an unexpected visitor, Duryodhana was prepared to retaliate but soon recognized Arjuna, acknowledging his vow to never attack from behind. Arjuna invoked a boon from Duryodhana, reminding him of a previous occasion where he had saved Duryodhana from the Gandharva soldiers’ captivity. As per their code of honor, Duryodhana was obliged to grant any request made by Arjuna.
In a decisive moment, Arjuna beseeched Duryodhana for the five arrows that Bhishma had bestowed upon him. Although reluctant, Duryodhana, bound by his word and warrior’s code, relinquished the arrows to Arjuna.
With Arjuna’s departure, Duryodhana hastened to Bhishma, pleading for a new set of arrows. However, Bhishma explained that the arrows he had previously imparted contained his life force and were irreplaceable. Nevertheless, Bhishma vowed to engage in the forthcoming battles with unwavering dedication and commitment.
This saga of the five arrows, emblematic of Bhishma’s devotion and the complexities of loyalty and honor, exemplifies the intricate web of relationships and promises that shaped the events of the great war in the Mahabharata.